l...l


Chapter Thirty Four

August 17th, 2077

Night City, Northern California

16th Martin Street, Northside

Objective…..secure subject Dana Parker.

..Success…..Crucial.

..Failure…..Unacceptable.

Parameters…..

..Location…..Martin Street Underground Bunker…..

..Opposing Force…..Scavengers…..

Recommendation…..Eradicate with extreme prejudice…..

.Secondary Objective…..

..Kill the Meatman…..

There have been few times in Cyrus's life where emotion has clouded his judgment.

His response to this lapse in composure was to fall back on years of mental conditioning the Spartan III program imprinted on their cadets. They have become more frequent since their arrival to Night City, and each passing incident inflicts a mental toll on her Spartan.

Chamber bristles with concern and anger every time he enters that one-track mindscape. Cyrus acts more detached from his surroundings, and his brain activity falls into almost minimal readings as the black haze swallows him whole.

The bond between AI and Spartan is deep on a psychological level. MJOLNIR intertwines their minds into a single pulsing existence, and Chamber feels every emotion coursing through his veins as if they were her own.

What she hated above all else was the empty husk of emotion that Cyrus became during these moments. It affected Chamber on a level that could only be described as a cocoon of frozen ice wrapped tightly around her.

No matter the evidence or pleading Chamber brought before him, Cyrus always took to the black haze like a lost child. He embraced the darkness in his soul more than anyone could possibly know.

Not even, V. Who is plagued by his memories could ever understand his psychological profile.

Chamber could only watch as Cyrus butchered his way through a Scavenger clan with unrestrained concern. He didn't ask for nor decline any assistance she offered. Instead, he regarded any asset she handed him with a detached observation and seamlessly incorporated it into his strategy without hesitation.

Every ounce of tactical knowledge that Chief Mendez and Lieutenant Ambrose burned into Cyrus's brain pulsed with a fervor. There was no rampant emotion or boiling rage that swelled with every Scaver he grounded into dust.

Chamber warned Cyrus that he was storming headfirst into Scaver territory, but he didn't care. The reality remained that Dana was somewhere inside this underground bunker at the mercy of the Meatman.

It was a pity that his first kill would not be the serial killer themself.

His victims belonged to the Putrid Sons, one of the largest Scavenger gangs in Night City that took in survivors of dozens of other Scaver rings that Cyrus had butchered over the last few months.

Their leader Paskhin Borisovich was a former member of the Russian mafia and remained the only loose end of that pitiful syndicate that needed to be tied off. If fate smiled upon Borisovich and the fool wasn't inside the martin underground bunker, then Cyrus was willing to let him walk under the sun a few days longer.

Tonight his only objectives were to pull Dana from hell and butcher the Meatman until they were little more than a rotting corpse. Whether by circumstance or design, the Putrid Son's main operating base, a fallout bunker lost to the bureaucracy of Night City, served as the Meatman's safe house.

Cyrus attacked its guarded entrance with a vengeance, butchering a dozen Scavers in a blink, incapacitating their Lieutenant before any of them could retaliate. Chamber narrowly disabled the facility-wide alarm during his rampage, giving him precious moments to interrogate the Scaver Lieutenant.

"Where. Is. Dana. Parker." With each word, Cyrus tightened his grip on the Scavenger's throat. Enough to cause discomfort and allow the bandit to speak precious words that may save his life.

As per the reputation of Night City Scavengers, they were either cowards or fools. In the case of this Putrid Son lieutenant choking on oxygen, he was a fool.

"Sorry, I don't talk for free." His sarcasm did not go unpunished.

"Then scream." Cyrus smashed the Scaver on the concrete floor, plating his foot on the bandit's chest and ripping his cybernetic left arm from its socket.

"ARGHHHHHHH!" The blood-curling scream made Chamber cringe in disgust. The wrenching of synthetic skin and flesh grated on her audio receptors.

"Where is she?" Frustration briefly leaked into his quiet tone, and his vitals momentarily spiked, drawing Chamber's attention.

"Never seen the bitch before in my life!" In most cases, Cyrus would have found his defiance a welcome change in pace considering a Scavenger's usual predilection for cowardice.

But tonight wasn't one of those cases.

The Lieutenant lost possession of his right arm moment after his remark.

"MOTHERFUCKER!" The Scaver's cybernetic implants ruptured with random electrical discharges, causing spikes of cutting agony to erupt along the right side of his body.

"Where is the Meatman?" Cyrus loomed over the screaming Putrid Son with a deathly aura that contrasted the neutral tone he spoke with.

"How the fuck should I know? I'm a Scaver, not a goddamn GPS!"

Despite enduring pain on a level he had never experienced, the unnamed Putrid Son roared with defiance that reminded Cyrus of a UNSC Marine facing down a Covenant interrogator.

However, that is where the similarities ended, along with the Spartan's patience.

"Useless." Cyrus leaned his full weight on the Scaver's torso, slowly crushing his ribcage and forcing the bandit to choke on his own blood as his lungs became bloated with his life essence.

There was nothing slow about the man's death, and the Spartan took his time inflicting his excruciating retribution. It was cruel and unnecessary, and every piece of Chamber wanted to scream at him to stop, but she halted just short of intervening.

She needed to pick her battles, and she would never win when it came to his treatment of Scavengers.

Mercifully, the Scaver succumbed to his wounds and fell into shock. Cyrus lifted his foot and smashed his skull into a mess of bone fragments and brain matter.

"Cyrus." Chamber's voice drew the Spartan's attention away from the Scaver.

"What is it?" He stepped over the entrails of a Scaver who tried to claw her way to safety, but the substantial blood loss coupled with her innards scraping against the concrete hastened her demise.

"I have Disciple on standby for deployment."

"Negative, keep them on the perimeter in case anyone attempts to leave the bunker," Cyrus explained as he walked towards a seven-inch steel door that protected the underground facility.

His C9 explosives didn't possess the necessary yield to puncture the impregnable steel door, but he did have a technical expert that could manipulate the fallout bunkers' security protocols.

"What about V or Pan-." Chamber's words were halted by Cyrus's cutting glance before making his way to the bunkers security console. The doors were protected by a protection program designed to scramble the security codes in the event of an unauthorized breach.

"I don't need them. Cut them loose for the night."

"Cyrus." Chamber felt her processes freeze as his shrewd gaze dangerously narrowed.

"That is an order, Chamber." Cyrus's tone left no room for argument. He didn't want or need their assistance with Dana's rescue, the pair had done enough for him already, and they were running on fumes. "Send them home. I'll find them when I bring Dana back alive."

"They won't like that."

"I don't care." Chamber merely shook her head in resignation, dismissing the fourth attempt at communication by V with a poignant message of dismissal.

Cyrus ejected her data crystal and inserted the chip into a console embedded in the wall adjacent to the steel doors. While the AI broke down the station's security protocols, he contacted Leopard and her Bloodhounds.

Beta team was on their way back from a deployment in the Badlands when Cyrus discovered Dana's location was smack dab in the middle of Scaver territory. Chamber redirected their Phantom to Martin street when it became clear that time was of the essence.

Iwasaki and the rest of Disciple One were scrambling to catch up to the Spartan, but they were caught off guard by his sudden departure from the warehouse. Chamber was able to get the Bloodhounds moving, but their arrival would come well after Leopard, and her team arrived.

Speaking of.

"Disciple Two, this is Oxide. Status on the perimeter."

"No tangos have attempted to leave the fallout bunker through the eastern exit. Disciple One is two mikes out." A flash of green from the security console and the screeching of iron bolts drew Cyrus's attention.

Chamber succeeded in her directive, and now the fallout bunker was exposed to the Spartan. The flickering lights coupled with shrieking metal echoed throughout the bunker, and those foolish enough to lead the life of a Scavenger now knew that the devil had arrived.

"Understood," Cyrus inserted a fresh magazine into his Copperhead before swapping it for an M2038 Tactician. "Maintain the perimeter and kill any Scavers that attempt to test our boundary."

"Copy all, we'll get it done." Cyrus disconnected the commlink and quietly admired the classic beauty in his hands. The Tactician reminded him of the M90 Shotgun back home, and while its features were smoother and less robust, it still managed to deal incredible damage at short range.

The Spartan retrieved his artificial companion while keeping a close eye on his motion tracker. A collection of hostile contacts began to converge on the bunker entrance en masse.

"Picking up nearly two dozen contacts approaching the entrance," Chamber spoke softly. "I have control of the bunker's security protocols, but they're not exactly up to par. These Scavengers didn't feel the need to restore the defense turrets or a majority of their security cameras."

"Is that a problem?" Cyrus replied, pressing the Tactician against his chest and leaning behind the bunker wall next to the steel door.

"No, an inconvenience at best," Chamber answered. "I'm pushing the bunker schematics to your HUD. Red areas are marked as dead zones we have no eyes on, while green is the opposite. Tactical recommendation is to avoid the dead zones, but those locations could also be where Dana is being held."

"Expand our motion tracker and thermal imaging process," Cyrus instructed. "I want to know the exact number of people inside this bunker."

"Done," Chamber responded, pushing MJOLNIR's internal software into overdrive. "How are we doing this?"

"The old-fashioned way. Room by room."

"That might be harder than you think." The Spartan eyes twinkled with confusion as the fallout bunker's layout presented itself on his HUD.

To call this place, a bunker would be mincing words. A better term was to describe it as a vast complex that was no doubt constructed for military purposes. Its previous owners abandoned the facility for reasons unknown, leaving it to gather dust for its next inhabitants to clean off.

Cyrus carefully scrutinized the floor plans, and slowly he realized the extensive size of the fallout complex. The Putrid Son's main base of operations stretched well over a kilometer in length, with multiple compartments of varying size running along dozens of hallways.

Searching every inch of this complex would take too long, and Cyrus wasn't foolish enough to attempt such an endeavor by himself. He supposed this was the primary reason they recruited Iwasaki and his Bloodhounds.

Alone you are lethal but isolated by your environment. With allies, you turn a single insulated blade into a far-reaching and ever-expanding calamity.

"Disciple Two. I'm pushing the complex layout to your optics. Secure the entranceway and prepare to breach." Cyrus didn't have the luxury of Spartans at his back, so he'd have to make do with Bloodhounds.

"Disciple Two copies all we're engaging now."

"Disciple One, what's your status over?"

"One minute out." Iwasaki's transmission was spotty but manageable. Chamber re-routed several local Telecomm networks to boost his signal. "What are our orders?"

"Priority target is being held in an underground facility run by the Putrid Sons. I need you and your team to reinforce Disciple Two and prepare to sweep the entire facility from east to west."

"Disciple One copies all. We're approaching Disciple Two's location now. Rules of Engagement?"

"Weapons tight. I don't want any stray rounds to nick our hostage."The sounds of clattering footsteps and hushed voices drew ever closer to the entrance.

"Move it! Move it! Setup the barricades and machine guns! We aren't about to let these gonks into our house." A Scaver Jackhammer, hefting around a modified Carnage, directed nearly two dozen of his subordinates to establish a fortified position thirty meters from the steel doors.

Cyrus peaked down the corridor, his HUD lighting up with activity as Chamber designated targets based on lethality. A handful of Putrid Sons carried Mk.31 HMG's, and he spotted several Berserkers amongst their number.

"Thirty-Six hostiles in total," Chamber supplied. "The ugly bastard screaming his head off is Toropov Borisovich, Paskhin's younger brother whose list of crimes mirrors his."

"Tactical options?" Cyrus reached up and attached a strobing flashlight to his Tactician's barrel.

"These guys are a step up our usual competition," Chamber informed. "Their optics are tailored made for low-light conditions, and something tells me that's by design considering the growing possibility their moonlighting as Night Corps enforcers."

The prospect that Night City's darling corporation actively employed Scavengers under their payroll was enough indication that there was nothing decent about Night Corps. Chamber had been working up a theory that the Meatman contracted the Putrid Sons as their quiet muscle in town and a convenient tool to dispose of their victims.

While the Meatman's identity resided on their reputation as a merciless serial killer, they still needed to prosecute Night Corps agenda, and their Paladins were far too valuable to waste so needlessly.

It was a matter of simply utilizing disposable resources they could use under the radar, and the Meatman took full advantage of those assets.

"If these Scavers are smart, then they'll be ready for standard breach tactics," Cyrus muttered under his breath as he slowly fell to a knee. "Turning out the lights and using our flashbangs won't be enough to rattle their confidence."

"Maybe," Chamber admitted as her processes drew up and destroyed dozens of tactical plans in a matter of seconds. Cyrus could utilize his active camo, but one wrong move and not even his shields would stand up against all that firepower.

The Scavers held the advantage in narrow corridors, and Cyrus, while quicker than any human had any right to be, didn't have any augmentations that could outrun bullets. Chamber's algorithms finally settled on a strategy that was unconventional but held some merit.

"Cyrus, give me complete access to MJOLNIR." Cyrus glanced at the AI momentarily before conceding to her demand.

"What are you thinking of?"

"I'm going to utilize a reboot optics daemon that V provided me," Chamber stated. "I'm still working on remodeling our firmware for multi-use breaches, but this will be the first time I try to infect multiple tangos at once."

"Can MJOLNIR handle it?" Chamber scoffed at the very notion that their power armor was incapable.

"Our specs aren't the issue. It's making sure our armor doesn't burn out the daemon before we can use it….." The AI played with the daemon for a few precious seconds, perfecting its usage while Cyrus stewed in silence. "….And done. Ready."

"Always."

Shadows consumed the complex.


Cyrus blurred into motion. He synced his movements with Chamber's assault on the Scavengers optics. Heavy Gunners fell to their knees in agony while a select few blindly fired off a burst of .50 cal that wounded or killed a fellow Putrid Son.

The Spartan stormed into the corridor, using the chaos to his full advantage, and sprinting past a trio of Raptors who uselessly sprayed their magazines at him without any trigger discipline.

Two pumps from Cyrus's Tactician killed a pair of Raptors, while a third suffered a ferocious right elbow that shattered his jaw. The Headhunter pointed his shotgun downrange and activated the strobing torch attached to the barrel.

Bursts of intense light streamed down the corridor, blinding numerous Putrid Sons that caught even a minor glimpse of its glow. Their optics possessed the same flaws as other enhanced spectral devices, suffering a bloom out of green and white when the amplification plates are overwhelmed by photons pouring in.

Combined with Chamber's assault on their optics and these Scavers were suffering a debilitating sense of vertigo and anguish.

"Where is he?!" Bursts of weapons fire flashed in the low light, illuminating the corridor with each passing second.

"I can't see shit!" Cyrus tore through their ranks with clinical precision, snapping the spine of a flailing Putrid Son and using him as a human shield against lethal streams of gunfire.

"Keep fucking firing!"

He pulled two grenades from his waist and tossed them towards a cluster of Scavengers, unleashing a barrage of bullets in his vicinity. The fragmentation grenades came to a sudden halt at the feet of a reloading Raptor, whose eyes registered the spherical object with wide eyes.

"Oh shit."

*BOOM!*

Jagged pieces of concrete rocketed in all directions, torn flesh and flying limbs followed in the wake of the deadly debris. Those few Scavengers that survived the fragmentation blasts found themselves covered in dirt and the remains of their fellows.

Cyrus's shields flared as he blasted three Scavengers with his Tactician. A group of Jackhammer CQC specialists stormed through the thick smoke in a mad rush to engage him in melee.

Cyrus emptied his remaining shells into the group of Jackhammers, taking down three of their number before holstering his Tactician and pulling both his Unity and Kukri in each hand.

While switching to his Kukri, he took a blast from a Jackhammers Carnage to the shoulder. The kinetic force sent his momentum backward while his energy shields tanked the heavy projectile.

"Shields at 60%!" Chamber's warning was immediately followed by the leading Jackhammer barreling into his sternum. Gnarling in rage, the Scavenger jabbed the stock of his Carnage toward Cyrus' helmet missing his jaw by mere inches.

Cyrus leaned back and jammed his Unity into the Scavers temple, firing off a single round that plastered brain matter on the far wall. Two more Jackhammers attempted to match the Spartan's fury, but they met a savage and bloody end at his hand.

The firefight between Putrid Sons and a single Spartan dragged on into a grueling and continually one-sided battle. The Scavenger's advantage in numbers and firepower fell with each casualty inflicted upon them.

Through it all, Toropov scrutinized the ferocious fighting with an eager grin. The Borosovich brute thrived in combat and observing the Headhunters lethal craft was beautiful in his robot blue eyes.

Toropov allowed the Spartan to butcher most of his men, and he did nothing when several of his subordinates lost their nerve and retreated into the complex. Cyrus broke the neck of a Raptor held tightly in his grasp and tossed their limp body into the far wall.

His gaze fell upon the Putrid Son standing amongst the corpses of his subordinates with an easy smile plastered on his face. Such a prospect would unnerve even the most stout of hearts, but Cyrus didn't care in the slightest.

Toropov would die. Whether or not he smiled his way to hell mattered little to him.

No words were exchanged between Brute and Spartan. Neither felt the need to make bold accusations of their might or drag on their inevitable conflict.

Cyrus acted first, kicking off his heels, and fell upon Tor0pov within three impossibly long strides. The Brute barely managed to block his downward strike, crossing his arms and shielding him from a mortal blow to the throat.

Toropov leaned back, pulling his right arm back and activating the pistons in his gorilla arm to fire up. His knuckles impacted the Spartan's left shoulder, pushing Cyrus's momentum outward and briefly leaving him exposed to a follow-up strike.

Cyrus rolled with the blow to his shoulder, sliding back on his heels and launching a deadly head kick that broke Toropovs jaw. The Scaver Lieutenant bounced off the concrete wall, smashing his skull headfirst and exposing him to the Spartan's retribution.

He smashed his fist just below Toropov's left ribs, rupturing his kidney and damaging his lung. The wounded Scavenger stumbled backward and immediately felt an armored foot embed itself into his stomach.

Toropov's massive frame cascaded through the air and smashed into a makeshift fortification, destroying the mounted HMG and landing amidst a cluster of corpses. The wounds inflicted upon the Scavenger were mortal to the average human body, but some people took more convincing to go quietly into the night.

The Spartan watched the Brute struggle to his feet, blood leaking from the corner of his hanging jaw. Toropov's guttural roar of defiance permeated the blood-soaked corridors, and Cyrus prepared himself for the Scavenger's last ditched assault.

Toropov charged with a balance that contrasted his near-broken body, stomping through the shattered corpses of his subordinates. Cyrus expertly blocked a flurry of strikes and barely managed to avoid Toropovs earth-shattering strike that splintered the concrete at his feet.

The Spartan stomped the Scavenger's left knee, buckling the leg sideways and shattering the titanium-enforced bone in half. Toropov unleashed a scream of pure agony as Cyrus sliced through the tendons in his left shoulder and separated the limb from his torso.

As with most of his encounters with Night City's criminal and mercenary syndicates, they ended not with his demise but theirs. Cyrus stepped away from Torpov and retrieved the Tactician off his magnetic holster, and leveled it against the Scavenger's temple.

Much like earlier, there was no exchange of words between both warriors. Only an ever subtle nod sent Cyrus's way through gritted teeth and pain-filled eyes. Toropov was a madman, but his only redeeming quality was his conduct in battle, and dying to a Spartan was honorable in itself.

*BANG!*

"All targets neutralized." Chamber's voice broke the still silence, and Cyrus was left standing amongst dozens of rotting corpses. The Spartan stepped over Toropov's corpse and ejected the spent shotgun shell from his Tactician.

"I need a status on Disciple?" Cyrus began as he kicked down a hastily put-together barricade and tossed a fragmentation grenade into the unobstructed doorway.

"Grenade!" A Scavenger Raptor panicked and ran through the darkened doorway, only to receive a face full of 12 gauge pellets. The rest of his companions were gunned down with a mixture of Tactician and Unity, leaving six more dead Putrid Sons to Cyrus's kill count.

"Their meeting heavy, and I mean heavy resistance," Chamber emphasized while adding a trauma box in the top right corner of his HUD, displaying the vitals of all eight Bloodhounds.

"Casualties?" Losing a Bloodhound this early in the engagement would minimize their effectiveness. The heavy contact he received at the west entrance was no doubt experienced by Iwasaki and his subordinates.

"No fatalities so far, but Eagle and Ocelot have taken minor wounds from a Scavenger Berserker." Chamber hummed in frustration as Cyrus quietly traversed an empty corridor.

"What is it?"

"There are far too many Scavengers here," Chamber pushed a camera feed to his HUD, and Cyrus watched dozens of Putrid Sons scramble through multiple corridors. The AI marked up the number of Scavengers in the complex a two hundred at a bare minimum. "And I figured out the exact reason why resistance is heavier than we anticipated."

A foreign transmission filtered into his helmet, and Cyrus immediately recognized Pashkin's rocky voice. "…..do you want?"

"I need your clan to fortify the complex. We're going to have company." Pashkin's hostile inquiry was answered by an unnaturally neutral voice masked by random background noise.

"…..How many?" The hostility simmered down into resignation, a tone that contrasted the stone-faced Scavenger.

"All of them."

Cyrus furrowed his brows in confusion, glancing towards a slightly perturbed Chamber. The Meatman's identity was still a topic that the AI had failed to solve, and even their transmissions neglected to answer even the essential questions to their identity.

"That voice belongs to the Meatman, but it's masked by a synthesizer that I cannot decipher from here." Cyrus chose not to broach the sensitive topic. Chamber took pride in her intelligence gathering, and this serial killer managed to frustrate her at every turn.

"When was that transmission sent out?" The Spartan inquired while engaging a squad of Putrid Sons with his Tactician. He slid into cover behind a concrete beam, narrowly avoiding a surge of machine gunfire.

"An hour after Parker went missing." Cyrus sneered in disgust, gunning down a trio of Raptors before they could push his location proper and taking the advantage away from the Scavengers.

"We need to expedite this process." These Scavengers were slowing him down far too much.

Cyrus laid down suppressing fire with his Tactician, clipping a Putrid Son in the forehead and keeping the rest of his companions behind cover. He smashed through a sandbag wall and brutally yanked a Copperhead from a Raptors grasp with his free hand.

The Spartan crushed the Copperhead and snap-kicked the Scavers right shoulder, dislocating the limb and pinning him against the far wall. Cyrus reared back his left arm, smashing his fist through the Scavers head and splattering his skull against the concrete wall.

Cyrus spun to face the left-flank gunner, shotgun leveled at the closest Scavers head instantly. To his enhanced senses, increased by his trusty AI and his MJOLNIR, the Raptor practically moved at an almost frozen pace.

Too slow to save his own skin.

The Spartan squeezed the Tactician's trigger, snapping the Raptor's head back with a deadly mix of tiny projectiles. The Scavenger's corpse dropped with a meaty thud that served to frighten his companion's flight or fight instincts.

Most of them ran, opting to regroup with the rest of their forces further into the complex.

The sole remaining survivor uselessly spent the ammunition in his Copperhead attempting to gun down the Spartan. He failed to recognize the soundless clicks of an empty magazine, and madness utterly consumed him

Cyrus could see the telltale signs of Black Lace in his bloodshot eyes, the Scavenger was living on a high, and he would die while his mind played tricks on them.

The Spartan took a single step forward and dragged his Kukri across the Raptors neck. Blood squirted onto the floor below, and slowly the man's body began to fail him. Cyrus didn't wait to watch the life crawl out of the man, stepping past him and listening for the impact of flesh meeting concrete.

He didn't have to wait long.

"Cyrus, I'm picking up heavily encrypted transmissions to the complex's telecommunications network," Chamber said.

"Origin?" Cyrus began to hear gunfire echo up and down the corridors. Iwasaki and his team were knee-deep in Scavengers but holding out against them for now.

"Night Cops HQ in Corporate plaza," Chamber replied.

"They're trying to get a status on their investment." Cyrus mused while activating his active camo, a trio of Putrid Sons carefully pushed down the corridor. "It's the only reason for Night Corps to establish a connection with these Scavers. Where is the receiving transmission located?"

"Direct center of the complex. All the CCTV cameras in that area have been taken down. We'll have to rely on thermal and motion tracking for spotting hostiles. Disciple separated into two teams to cover more ground. Iwasaki and his Bloodhounds are closer than we are. I recommend that we send them in now before our targets slip the net."

"Understood." Cyrus switched on his commlink. "Disciple One, this is Oxide, do you copy?"

Silence.

"Disciple One. Do you copy over?"


"Disciple One. Do you copy over?"

"One moment, Oxide!" Iwasaki screamed into the comms channel, narrowly avoiding a blistering Mantis Blade to the sternum. He didn't mean to come off rude, but these Scavers were giving them a helluva fight.

Fighting in these narrow corridors gave the bloodhounds the advantage by limiting the Scavenger's ability to overwhelm them. However, it also turned every engagement into a marathon of bloodshed.

Iwasaki gunned down a pair of Raptors while pushing down the hallway with Falcon.

"Keep moving forward!" he shouted over the squad commlink. "Breakthrough these Scavers and give us some breathing room!"

Sparrow and Vulture unleashed precise and deadly shots over his head, picking off several Putrid Son Lieutenants as they attempted to reform their men behind the second line of fortifications.

These Scavers were prepared for a fight and set up numerous defensive positions with mounted HMGs that created a deadly Killzone. The Bloodhounds had to get creative with their combat hacks, but they made a breakthrough all the same.

Vulture slid towards an abandoned machinegun emplacement off to his right and ripped off the Mk.31 from its stand. He braced the HMG over the lip of the Hesco barrier and unleashed his own brand of suppressing fire.

He aimed over Falcon's head and gunned down a Putrid Son Heavy before they could reorient their firearm against him. Sparrow reloaded her Nekomata and braced her gauss rifle alongside Vulture, adding her own firepower to his.

"Eagle, keep moving forward." Sparrow firmly squeezed her Nekomatas trigger, taking the top off a Scaver Raptor, preparing to throw a fragmentation grenade at Iwasaki. "We got you covered."

Iwasaki trusted his subordinate's direction, and together with a shotgun totting Falcon, the Bloodhounds pushed the Scavengers into the next corridor.

"Fall back! Fall back!" A Scavenger officer urged his subordinates behind a security door. The firefight came to an abrupt end when the heavy set of security doors slammed shut, preventing Eagle and his team from moving forward and giving the Scavers more time to find salvation.

The Bloodhound growled in frustration, but his attention was drawn back to a patiently waiting Cypher.

"Disciple One, do you copy over?" Iwasaki scrambled to reply before their Sensei decided to blow a gasket.

"Disciple One copies, go ahead, Oxide." The rest of his team rendezvoused at the gate, eager to hear their leader's next directives.

"I'm dispatching your team to compartment B-01 at the direct center of the complex. Our HVT should be held up inside with our hostage. I want you and your team to follow the outlined path and secure our objectives."

Iwasaki carefully examined the complex's layout on his HUD. Disciple Two was two corridors to their North in a pitched gun battle with a contingent of Putrid Sons making life hell.

Cypher was off to their west, no doubt drawing the bulk of Scavengers to him like moths to a flame. He had already covered more ground than bot Disciple teams, but he was responsible for nearly half of the complex himself.

"Rodger that. Will Disciple Two be assisting us?" Iwasaki inquired.

"Negative," Cyrus replied. "Disciple Two has been directed to take control of the complex's security room. You're on your own until we rendezvous."

Iwasaki's orders were simple, but he had three hundred meters of choke points to cross, and every millimeter of it was covered with fortified emplacements and Scavengers.

Easy would be boring, he supposed.

"Disciple one copies, we're moving out." Cypher disconnected their call, and he glanced towards his team, who resolutely nodded towards him.

Every single Bloodhound was eager to prove themselves to their master, and meeting his expectations had become nearly impossible in the last few weeks. Now, they had an opportunity to rectify those transgressions through combat with these repulsive Scavengers.

Iwasaki was determined to earn Cypher's favor.

One body at a time if he had to.

"Sparrow," Eagle shouldered his rifle and motioned his tech expert towards the security panel.

Sparrow moved forward and crouched by the panel to the left of the door, opposite of Iwasaki and Falcon as they prepared to breach. Vulture crouched behind her, keeping a watchful eye on their backs while she tinkered with the console.

She snatched up her Nekomata and stood on her heels, nodding towards Iwasaki and bracing against the wall opposite of him.

Iwasaki raised his Nowaki and nodded, giving her the go-ahead to breach the door. Sparrow activated the controls, and as the doors slid open, she tossed a fragmentation grenade inside.

*BOOM!*

The explosion was followed by screams of anguish from their foes, and Iwasaki wasted no time in piercing through the veil of smoke weapon first.

Iwasaki fired two bursts directly through the smoke, picking out humanoid outlines with his enhanced vision. His first shots struck the Scaver taking cover in the middle of the corridor, while his second burst hit impacted just below the left eye of Raptor blinded by the debris.

Falcon broke off to his right, firing off shell after shell of 12 gauge down the corridor and keeping the Putrid Sons on their heels. Their comrades on either side of the door howled with fury and blindly unleashed a wave of lead that both Bloodhounds slid underneath.

Vulture swung his recently acquired Mk.31 and unleashed hell, along with the rest of his team. The Bloodhounds created a hellish crossfire into the corridor and making short work of the Scavengers defending their base.

With breakneck speed born of cybernetic enhancements and years of tutelage under their former master. Iwasaki and his team broke through what little defenses remained and soon found themselves outside of compartment B-01.

However, the remaining Scavengers in their sector chose to make a final stand outside their objective.

"End of the line for these assholes." Vulture discarded the Mk.31 and reequipped his SOR-22. "Let's get this over with, Eagle."

"Wait one," Iwasaki lightly reprimanded, barring Bulture from initiating their assault. "I have an idea, but it requires the rest of our frags."

"I only have two left," Falcon replied, tossing over his grenades. "Ammo's running low, and I'm not keen on fighting these assholes in hand to hand. Especially in these conditions."

"If this goes right, then we won't have to worry about another firefight." Iwasaki walked towards Sparrow, who started rummaging through her rucksack. The tech operator retrieved a handheld drone and snatched the frags from his grasp.

"Don't tell me you're making a suicide drone." Vulture sighed at the overtly energetic nod from Sparrow. "I always knew she was a psycho, will this even work?"

"Yes."

Vulture's doubts were only increased when Sparrow activated her little makeshift kamikaze, and it proceeded to barely hover to chest level. There were so many reasons that he could give to the utter ridiculousness of this strategy, but at this point, he didn't really care.

Sparrow's drone shot forward, bending around the corner and startling the Scavengers with its presence. A select few noticed the frag grenades haphazardly strapped to its frame, but only one spotted the missing pin on a single grenade as the drone shot towards them.

"GET DOWN!"

*BOOM!*

A torrent of blistering shrapnel tore through flesh and bone, killing a dozen of the Putrid Sons and throwing the rest to the ground. The explosion's epicenter occurred at the direct center of the Scavers formation, ensuring that every one of them didn't walk away from the attack unscathed.

"That was fucking stupid." Iwasaki was inclined to agree with Vulture's assessment, but the results, no matter how ridiculous, proved otherwise.

Falcon and Vulture went about putting down the surviving Putrid Sons while Sparrow hacked into the security console that locked down B-01. The Scavengers initiated an emergency lockdown to protect their asset and hostage inside.

"How long?" Iwasaki strode up to his tech expert, who tore off the console's cover.

"Two minutes." Sparrow intoned. "I'd let Cypher know we've reached our objective."

Iwasaki nodded sharply and was about to hop on their communication link when a Falcon's voice graced his ears.

"Cypher's already here." On cue, their Sensei materialized like a wraith. Iwasaki took note of the blood caking his towering frame, and he didn't believe for a second that it was his.

"Report?" Cyrus said as he strode towards Iwasaki, holstering his Tactician.

"Sensei, we'll be ready to breach the room momentarily," Iwasaki replied, glancing back towards a diligently working Sparrow. "How is Disciple Two?"

"They've taken control of the security room and have begun locking out the rest of these Scavers," Cyrus paused for but a moment, eyes scrutinizing the wound on his left arm. "Casualties?"

"A few wounds," Iwasaki responded, shrugging his shoulders lightly. "But nothing that time won't heal."

"Yeah, tell that to Ocelot." Vulture's voice leaked with sarcasm. "The poor bastards gonna need a new mantis blade. After that, Berserker diced up his shit like a fucking filet."

His unwanted and often unwarranted remarks earned him a palmed strike to the side of his head. Sparrow snorted in amusement even as Cypher's full attention never wavered from the only obstacle between him and Dana.

"We're in." Cyrus craved those words more than anything else, and with the slightest of notions, all four Bloodhounds moved into a breaching position. The hard locks protecting the Meatman from his retribution slid away.

However, there was a significant issue that did not escape his notice.

The Spartans motion tracker was eerily quiet.


Forgotten - Lorne Balfe

Cyrus reared back his right leg and broke down the steel obstacle with a single kick to the center.

Bloodhounds and Spartan poured into the darkened room, ready to take on the Meatman and the world, for that matter. However, only flickering lights and shadows greeted them as they breached the compartment, and that shook Cyrus to his core.

Every bone in his body was ready to shatter the Meatman into unrecognizable pieces, but that prospect washed away when his eyes fell upon the body hanging from two meat hooks at the center of the darkened room.

No.

No.

No.

NO!

Cyrus disregarded his surroundings, blowing past his Bloodhounds and wrapping his arms around Dana's broken body. The Chieftain was stripped naked, with pieces of her flesh torn off or precariously hanging on by a thread.

Two hooks suspended her into the air by her shoulders, and Cyrus carefully extracted the outcast from her brutalizing constraints. Dana's limbs flopped to her sides, and he cautiously maneuvered her to the blood-soaked ground, searching for a heartbeat.

"Chamber?" His neutral voice betrayed the swelling of emotion that consumed his very heart.

"…..Cyrus." Her disembodied voice replied solemnly.

"Get me a Phantom." He ordered without hesitation. "We're moving her now."

"Cyrus." He whirled on Chamber, ready to tear into the AI for her insubordination, only to find a pair of azure eyes staring back at him with regret. "I'm sorry."

His grasp on Dana tightened as the reality of his failure slowly began to set in. The Spartans gaze trailed to those hazel blue eyes that never regarded him with wariness.

Those orbs were now dull to the world around them, and Cyrus reached up and closed them shut. The Bloodhounds each bowed their head in respect for the Outcast Chieftain and her passing.

Cyrus ignored Iwasaki's quiet requests for Leopard and her team to prepare for immediate extraction. He dismissed the flickering monitors that formed a semi-circle around him.

He ignored the laughter of the thirsting sociopath that took pleasure in his agony over Dana's death. Iwasaki and his Bloodhounds drew up their firearms in response, ready to protect their Sensei at a moment's notice.

The monitors gave off a static background, but the feminine voice that Cyrus knew belonged to the Meatman was no longer masked with deception.

"So close. Yet so far away." The serial killer's reputation as a butcher paled in comparison to the provocative voice grating against his ears. "I suppose even someone like you can't succeed at everything. Hm."

Cyrus said nothing in response.

"You don't have to say anything to me because failure is its own answer. Wouldn't you agree? Cypher." The way she spoke his name was every bit as seductive as one could make it, but it wasn't one born of common or physical interest.

The Meatman regarded him as her next victim to string up from the world to see, the final obstacle to overcome in her psychotic quest for recognition. She may have been a Night Corp assassin, but it was clear she had her own agenda outside of the corporation's interest.

"How does it feel? To stand on the very stones that run with her blood. Do you feel sad? Full of rage? Or does that armor help bury your feelings? Hiding your true self."

Iwasaki and his Bloodhounds sneered in silent contempt for the serial killer that hand managed to escape their grasp. It took every bit of restraint not to lash out at the psychopath, but that would do nothing for them.

"Oh, you are a truly extraordinary creature, Cypher. I look forward to breaking you."

The monitors shut down, and silence reigned supreme once again.

Not a soul in blood-soaked the room dared to move first, and Iwasaki was willing to wait for their master.

"Iwasaki." Cyrus's voice remained firm, a testament to his composure.

"Yes, Master?" He replied softly.

"I need a cover." Falcon acted first, pulling a spare blanket from his pack and giving it to him. "Thank you."

With reverence, the Spartan carefully wrapped the fallen Chieftain in a cocoon to protect her body from the elements. Once the deed was finished, he lifted her in his arms, leaning her covered head against his armored sternum.

After ordering Iwasaki and his men to scavenge the facility for intelligence before burying its very existence, Cyrus returned to Camp August.

His arrival was a somber affair. The security guards halted him on instinct, but when Cyrus stood silently before them with Dana's cold body in his grasp, they faltered.

He would never forget the shedding tears from the hundreds of outcasts as he walked towards a heartbroken Clint.

He would never forget the anguish permeating in the air nor the wailing of men, women, and children.

He would never forget that on August 17th, 2077, he failed to save Dana Parker. The very first person in Night City who welcomed him with open arms without fear.

He would never fail again.


Failure is its own lesson and Cyrus's path will not always lead to success. Soon we will explore the corrupt foundations of Night City and the mysterious Sirens.


Once again a stupidly busy week for me despite being out of school. Work coupled with family trips led to this chapter day late. I will update this chapter with answered reviews soon.


Next Chapter: July 27th.